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How the "Milk Carton Rule"​ Helps Us Remember to Pivot Mindsets

Ever heard of the "Milk Carton Rule"? A rule based on a real-life story from a psychology textbook about a husband who continually felt triggered when his wife left the milk carton out (vs. returning it to the refrigerator). For years he fixated on trying to get his wife to change her ways – an unsuccessful feat. His actions led to a cycle of anger and frustration that affected their marriage. Instead of getting upset and having the same argument repeatedly, he finally realized another way to solve this challenge - buy two cartons of milk.

We all possess the ability to shift our focus as needed; leave alone the things (or people) you can't control and focus on the things you can. We cause ourselves unnecessary frustration when we continue to demand that reality be different from what we want. The truth is, most people won't change, at least, not when we want them to. It is up to us in business (and life) to PIVOT as needed to reach desired outcomes.

At ZB MidARK, my leadership team and I pride ourselves on maintaining a spirit of servant leadership; an approach to guiding people that focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of our #1 asset – our employees. We’ve all been in scenarios where another person's actions temp us to play the "blame game" but successful leaders know they must step to the plate and create opportunities for critical thinking to bloom. When we foster work cultures that emphasize employee empowerment, organizations often prosper.

But, what about the problems we encounter that simply can't be fixed? Sometimes we just have to accept that it is what it is (as the popular saying goes). In these circumstances, we don't have to approve of what the other person may be saying or doing, it just means we recognize that we don't have the power to change the situation. Acceptance is sometimes a gift.

Emotionally Intelligent people who use the "Milk Carton Rule" often solve challenges and avoid frustration in the workplace. This rule leverages principles of psychology to shorten the distance between expectations and reality – a tool that can support those who desire to work and live with less stress, a great thing to consider as we navigate this holiday season and the New Year ahead.

TOP TAKEAWAY: Next time you face a challenge that temps you to play the "blame game", I invite you to consider the "Milk Carton Rule" to focus not on the things you can't control, but on the things you can.


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